Week 5 MaxDiff College Football Tiered Rankings: Washington State Shakes Up The Tiers

Week 5 MaxDiff College Football Tiered Rankings: Washington State Shakes Up The Tiers
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After Week 5, our team ranking poll among college football fans using the MaxDiff Market Research technique continues to mirror the AP at the top of the rankings, while the bottom of our poll reflects greater sensitivity to recent on-field outcomes. Overall, our results continue to suggest that for capturing fan rankings, the MaxDiff technique is a reasonable alternative to traditional ranking exercises which, as we discussed in last week’s post, are subject to influence from the other polls like the AP as well as other complications we’ve previously discussed. If you are new to this poll, or need a primer on how the MaxDiff technique differs from traditional ranking systems, please see our post from Week 1.

Three out of four of this week’s tier movements were driven by one major on-field outcome:  Washington State’s shocking 30-27 upset over preseason Pac 12 favorite USC.


Tier Analysis: Moving Up

  • In a move that should surprise few, Washington State is now a Tier III Solid Contender for a playoff berth following its season-defining win over USC. Washington State, whose fanbase has felt somewhat slighted (perhaps rightfully so) by the lack of media attention for their team, now has the attention of the nation.
  • Georgia continues to increase its stock as a viable playoff contender, entering Tier II after decimating SEC East Division rival Tennessee 41 – 0 in Knoxville in a game that was never competitive.
  • The Washington Huskies also continue to trend up as playoff contenders, entering Tier II in this week’s poll for two reasons:
1. They have quietly, but handily beaten everyone on their schedule up to this point, including last week’s 42-7 drilling of Oregon State.

2. USC’s loss to Washington State has perhaps shifted perceptions to the Huskies as the new team to beat in the Pac 12.


Tier Analysis: Moving Down

  • As described above, USC’s loss to Washington State caused them to tumble down the rankings. In the minds of fans, USC is currently perceived most similarly to the ACC Coastal’s Virginia Tech and Miami. While each of these three teams still has a reasonable shot of making the playoff, it is reasonable to assume each would have to run the table for the remainder of the regular season for this to happen.

Moving Forward: The First Playoff Poll

As we’ve previously discussed, our poll has been more sensitive to on-field outcomes compared to the AP, largely because the MaxDiff technique eliminates all the rules about where teams are “supposed” to be ranked. In short, our poll strips away the effects of those unwritten rules and instead simply reflects the fans’ perceptions of which teams are best. You could make the same argument about the College Football Playoff Poll. While team resumes are a major input into the Playoff Committee’s calculus for ranking the teams, their rankings do not adhere to any unwritten rules or conventions around where teams are “supposed” to be ranked. Instead, their rankings simply reflect who the committee thinks are the best teams. A good example of this was when Texas A&M was shockingly ranked fourth in the first playoff poll of last year. It will be interesting to see how well our poll lines up with the first CFP Poll. Our intuition leads us to believe that the MaxDiff poll will more closely mirror the CFP Poll than the AP, but we will not know until the first CFP Poll is released After Week 9 on October 31.





Heath Gregory is the Manager of Data Sciences at MDRG. His focus spans a range of project components including problem definition, study design, questionnaire development, programming, data analysis and reporting. He enjoys new applications of research techniques and is a certified college football fanatic.